EEOC sues trucking firms

Jill Dunn | October 06, 2011

In the last two weeks, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued several trucking companies over allegations the businesses used discriminatory practices against employees.

Among the commission’s flurry of filings since Sept. 23 are lawsuits against California-based Sutter Transfer Service, Stevens Transport of Dallas and Alabama-based Joe Ryan Trucking. The EEOC first had attempted a voluntary settlement with the companies before going to court.

It filed a complaint against Sutter Transfer Service Sept. 29 in Sacramento’s U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. The commission alleges the family-operated construction hauler allowed its dispatcher to harass employees with racial epithets. Truckers witnessed the harassment, but company officials did not take effective action, even after one trucker complained to management.

Bruce Peacock, STS president and CEO, said he does not discuss matters in litigation.

The EEOC seeks compensatory and punitive damages for drivers exposed to racial slurs, management training on anti-discrimination laws and other injunctive relief.

Also Sept. 29, the agency sued Stevens Transport over allegations the over-the-road refrigerated truckload carrier had discriminated against an applicant based on disability. The company did not respond to a request for comment over the suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Stevens had interviewed an applicant by phone for two open office positions. The applicant has been a paraplegic since a 2003 car accident, but the company was unaware of this until he arrived for an in-person interview, when they informed him they were concerned about his ability to keep pace with operations.

The applicant and Stevens communicated for several weeks. Finally, the company informed him it would not hire him, despite him having a master’s level in education and relevant experience in the transportation industry.

On Sept. 23, the commission filed against the owner of Joe Ryan Enterprises, doing business as Joe Ryan Trucking in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

It alleges the owner had incessantly sexually harassed female employees, despite their numerous requests for him to stop. No one was available immediately for comment at the for-hire, interstate carrier. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief.

Finally, the commission filed charges Sept. 30 against the former California-based Scully Distribution Services in U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Eastern Division. It alleged Scully had engaged in pervasive and wide-ranging discrimination, harassment and retaliation against non-white drivers.

SDS provided dedicated contract carriage services in 11 western states under Scully Companies, also based in California. On Jan. 31, Ryder System announced it acquired Scully Companies. The EEOC asserts Ryder also is liable as a successor corporation.

Heather Gatley, Ryder’s associate general counsel, said the company had not been served with the complaint yet, but will ask to be dismissed as a party to the lawsuit. Ryder should not be liable as the allegations against Scully began in 2003 or earlier and the EEOC’s pre-litigation conciliation dates to 2008, she said.

The commission seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the affected drivers, back pay for victims of retaliatory discharge and injunctive relief to prevent future discrimination.